On Stage: The Last Five Years

Vic Theatre Company’s new production of  The Last Five Years on at fortyfivedownstairs offers several surprises.

Josh Piterman and Verity Hunt-Ballard in the Last Five Years.

Josh Piterman and Verity Hunt-Ballard in the Last Five Years.*

There’s the telling of the story of a broken relationship and then there’s the live musical accompaniment. It wasn’t until the end of the show, when the musicians appeared on stage, that I realised they were there!

Having never seen this play, written by Jason Robert Brown, it took a while to realise the musical tells a familiar story in a `different way’. What’s familiar is twenty-somethings falling in and out of love. Jamie is an up-and-coming writer who is struggling to balance his sudden success with his increasingly tumultuous love life. Cathy is an aspiring actress who has to deal with the frustrations of her own career while watching her husband succeed from the sidelines.

Josh Piterman and Verity Hunt-Ballard in the Last Five Years.

What’s different is that Cathy tells her story from the end of the relationship when she comes home to find a note from Jamie telling her he is leaving. Jamie’s story starts from the time he meets Cathy and falls madly in love with her.

The show’s two actors, Verity Hunt-Ballard and Josh Piterman, give strong performances showing their excellent acting abilities. Especially enjoyable are Hunt-Ballard’s  A Summer in Ohio, a clichéd song and dance number and The Audition Sequence which highlights actors insecurities. Piterman shows his many skills in The Schmuel Song.

 Verity Hunt-Ballard

Verity Hunt-Ballard in action in A Summer in Ohio.

Both also show their abilities as stage hands, moving the props on the one-set show to indicate different settings and times in their relationship. We see a J appear next to a C when the two move in together while it disappears when Jamie leaves.  A half a glass of beer appears from a box to indicate Jamie’s discussion with friends in a bar.

The venue, fortyfivedownstairs, also adds to the appeal of the show. Given it’s only a small space you feel a connection to the couple and their story.  The only disadvantage of the space was, at times, the music was very loud and tended to drown out the voices of Hunt-Ballard and Piterman. In response they seemed to sing louder than perhaps necessary. Given it was opening night these problems could well be rectified in future performances.

Josh Piterman

Josh Piterman in the The Schmuel Song.

The Last  Five Years is playing at fortyfivedownstairs, located at 45 Flinders Lane until December 11. Visit fortyfivedownstairs.com or ring  9662 9966 for tickets.

Jenny Burns attended the opening night as a guest of the producers.

*Photos: James Terry

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